Fourth Century Christian Symbol Discovered

An eagle-eyed volunteer spotted an inscribed pottery fragment whilst sorting through hundreds of pieces of pottery shards found in the 1970s in an excavation on Brentford High Street due to road widening.

The fragment is inscribed with the chi rho, the first two letters of Christ in the Greek alphabet, which was a common symbol in the early Christian church.

(c) Museum of London

Chi Ro symbol on display at the Museum of London

(c) Adam Corsini / Museum of London

The pottery was made in Oxfordshire in the 4th century, rather than imported, so the symbol suggests a very early Thames-side Christian community.

The pottery shard , newly identified 40 years after it was found as important evidence of an early Christian community in Roman London, has gone on display for the first time at the Museum of London.

Adam Corsini, the archaeology collections manager, said it was a very rare find. “Although we can’t say from one object that Roman London and its hinterland were practising Christianity, it does suggest that Christians were at least present at some point in 4th-century Roman Brentford.

“Christian symbols from the Roman period are rare, especially from sites within Londinium’s surrounding hinterland, and there are only a few examples in our collections relating to London.

“Although we can’t say from one object that Roman London and its Hinterland were practising Christianity, it does suggest that Christians were at least present at some point in 4th Century Roman Brentford.”

The Museum of London has a wealth of material from Brentford, including much from the Thomas Layton collection. From prehistoric times it was an important river crossing, where the Thames could be forded at low tide.

It can be found in the roman religion case.

Hat tip to IanVisits Culture 24 and The Guardian

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